In our last post, “The Acts of Little Carmen,” we talked about choosing to stay in Spain’s old walled city of Cáceres for its architectural beauty, contemporary art, good food, boutique hotel and great hiking nearby—it scored a perfect five in my five-point criteria for a good destination.
On the map, light green—the universal colour for “espacio natural”—dominates the area surrounding Cáceres. There’s Monfragüe National Park and Biosphere Reserve. Tajo International Natural Park. And Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, With so much to choose from, descriptions only in Spanish and time for just one day of hiking, selecting a trail was complicated.
Until I found “The Walk by Goat Horn River “on the website of Gisela Wood, who has published the only guide in English to hiking in Extremadura. To you Gisela, I owe this entry in my diary: “Best Day (so far) in España, Tuesday, Oct 7.”
There were further complications after we chose the Goat Horn River Walk. We couldn’t find a map of the hike, so Magellan entered the lat/longs from Gisela’s site into his iPhone and through a mist of cloud and light rain, we drove up to the hamlet of Campillo de Deleitosa in Los Ibores.
Parking near the children’s playground as per Gisela’s directions, we’d barely got our backpacks on and the trunk closed when a man in a yellow national-park-issue slicker appeared. Speaking pretty good English (we speak almost no Spanish even if I do like to sprinkle our blog with melodious Spanish words like “espacio natural”), he told us he worked in the park service in Madrid, but was spending a few days off in his village.
He suspected where we were going. “They say easy, but difficult. Dangerous. Slippery,” he said, brandishing his arms at the overcast sky and dishing out what we interpreted as “don’t-do-it” phrases in Spanish. Magellan tried to reassure him by telling him we had a first-aid kit, and pointing out my hiking pole and sturdy boots (deflecting attention from his own feet, which were in sandals) and his iPhone. “No service, no service,” said the park man. “I have a friend here. I will see if today he can guide you.” We politely declined in our best English/Spanish/sign language. And then began walking down the street, waving our goodbyes and, pointing to our watches, reassuring him there was nothing to worry about unless our car wasn’t gone by 5 pm.
The hamlet only has 54 people, so we were a little shocked when we turned the corner and encountered a second person, an elderly Spanish woman. Her dark eyes sized us up in a second before she began wagging her head at us and muttering aloud in Spanish, which from her body language we interpreted to mean, “You crazy tourist fools.”
Somewhat apprehensive, we followed Gisela’s written directions as we left the town.
Keep left as you leave the village and start on a compacted earth track with trees and bushes on either side. The views to the left become extensive. Keep on this track as it rises gently. At a Y junction keep right. At a second Y junction take the right fork again.
We turned right too soon, retreated, and then turned right too soon, again.
Now I’ll turn this over to Magellan to clear up our confusion and what may confuse others, too.
Magellan: I wasn’t using the GPS coordinates to guide us to Point 2 on Gisela’s map, and the braided paths every 10 metres in the olive grove could all be mistaken for the “Y junction.” After leaving the village, we should have followed a SE bearing along the main farm trail for approximately 0.7 km until reaching a junction with another farm trail at Point 2. Instead, we turned uphill too soon and bashed through brambles, distressing (but not in a fashionable way) Spice’s orange jeans. Although Gisela describes the trail from Point 2 to Point 3 as the first hard bit, it’s not too bad, a 13% incline rising 120 metres with several scree sections, ultimately getting very close to the C-19.5 paved highway before becoming a farm road, 172° south.
The trail is flagged from time-to-time with yellow plastic strips tied to trees, but not often enough to assuage the warnings of “difficult,” “dangerous,” and “you’ll get lost.” Instead, rely on Gisela’s waypoints and until Point 5, follow the largest farm trail and ignore the intersecting paths.
The meadow along the river at Point 4 is an oasis in the midst of the rugged, dry rangeland.
The “second hard bit” is the 25 meter descent over 100 metres to the Goat River aqueduct. It is scree with no obvious path and needs to be navigated slowly, particularly if it’s wet. Hiking poles increase safety here—I relented my pride and used a branch.
Hiking in the abandoned aqueduct is a breeze, serenaded by the tinkling of goat bells from nearby pastures. The goat track itself is narrow and might be a bit treacherous in the rain. We had no problem, unlike the lone goat we saw that had obviously had an accident in Los Ibores.
Similarly to Gisela’s directions, we hiked the trail in five hours, with our MotionX-GPS showing a total distance of 13.5 km.
We saw no one else on the hike. And when we returned to the children’s playground at 3 pm under the hot sun, not a soul was stirring in the sleepy hamlet. With such a pleasant hike completed, our bellies full of Iberian ham from our picnic enroute, and the anticipation of more jamón at dinner, Campillo de Deleitosa seemed a fitting name for the area: a delightful field.
Wood, Gisela Radant. Walking in Extremadura. Spain: Santana Books, 2012.
Goat Horn River GPX –
Need to revise to get to Point 2 at N39º 41’ 51.29” W05º 34’ 05.70”